Thursday, May 15, 2014
Berkeley County School District school board voted to give a pay raise and a contract extension to Superintendent Rodney Thompson May 12 during a regular board meeting.
Thompson currently makes $163,800. The board agreed to offer Thompson a 3-percent raise and a one-year contract extension.
The decision was not unanimous: Board members Phillip Obie and Sheldon Etheridge voted against the motion.
During the open evaluation, Obie declined to evaluate the superintendent, and Etheridge said that while Thompson met expectations and should have his contract renewed, he did not want to assign a pay raise without the district’s budget being finalized.
Board Chair Kent Murray, and members Shannon Lee, Kathy Schwalbe, and Jim Hayes originally agreed with Etheridge’s view during the evaluation. Murray motioned to extend Thompson’s contract but to not offer a raise at this time.
However, board member Frank Wright argued that a raise should be given.
“So we think $5,000 is going to make a real, serious issue on the budget?” Wright said, adding that district was in trouble if that amount of money was unable to be budgeted.
Murray withdrew his motion, and board member Doug Cooper made the motion that Thompson met expectations, and to offer a one-year contract extension and a 3 percent raise.
According to district staff, teachers will likely see a 2.5 percent pay increase in the coming year.
All board members, with the exception of Obie declining to evaluate Thompson, said that the superintendent met expectations. Obie would not comment to media about why he declined to publicly evaluate Thompson. When his time came to offer an evaluation, Obie said “pass,” and later told other board members that it wasn’t an abstention.
Other board members offered these positive evaluations of Thompson:
• Murray: He found Thompson to be “very competent,” adding that “he has done an outstanding job in the last year particularly in the area of safety.” He also said, “I am also impressed with Dr. Thompson’s ability with his staff to increase community engagement” and “I have a tremendous amount of confidence in (him).”
• Hayes: Hayes was only in his second meeting on the board, but told the Independent his previous experience as an administrator in Berkeley County schools helped in his evaluation. He said, “Leadership is defined by results.”
• Etheridge: Etheridge said Thompson has done well with curriculum and school safety. He noted, “I wish the public could sit in on some of the contract negotiations to become aware of the millions of dollars Dr. Thompson has saved the district through his skills there.” Etheridge also said Thompson has responded well under pressure, particularly when being “badgered” during citizen comments: “He has responded professionally and has been very reserved in his response.”
The citizen comments Etheridge was referring to are linked to an ongoing ethics investigation of district employees. Earlier this year, Thompson was one of the targets of an investigation by Attorney General Alan Wilson. Wilson was responding to allegations that Thompson, along with Deputy Superintendent Archie Franchini and Communications Director Amy Kovach, worked on the 2012 Yes4Schools campaign during district time and used district resources, which is prohibited by law. Kovach was later indicted on a misdemeanor charge. No other indictments have followed.